WASHIGNTON, D.C. (July 23, 2021)—A bipartisan group of Senators led by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) have introduced the Supporting Our Direct Care Workforce and Family Caregivers Act (S. 2344), a bill to provide $1 billion in grants to states and other eligible entities to support innovative projects and programs focused on recruitment, retention and training for direct care workers, as well as family caregivers.
This legislation is the Senate’s version of the recently introduced House bill focused on the same issues, the Direct CARE Opportunity Act (H.R. 2999).
Both bills reflect broader federal policymaker interest in formalizing more assistance for direct care workers, especially those that work in home- and community-based settings, including home health and hospice. The general momentum amongst lawmakers has been catalyzed by President Biden’s call for a $400 billion investment in HCBS services and workforce, components of which are now actively being considered for inclusion in any forthcoming major reconciliation legislative package later in the year.
Like its House counterpart, S. 2344 would award grants to states or other eligible entities for initiatives to build, retain, train and otherwise promote the direct care workforce. Unlike the House bill, the Senate legislation would include grants not just for frontline care staff, but also for managerial or supervisory positions, an important addition given that there is a shortage amongst the home care leadership pipeline in addition to the challenges facing the direct care workforce.
Another provision in the Senate version absent from the House bill is the inclusion of grants focused specifically on unpaid (or paid) family caregivers. Given the strain caregiving often takes on a patient’s family, the grants proposed in this bill would allow entities to design programs tailored to educate, train, and provide respite to these individuals. Also of note is the Senate bill’s much more detailed and expansive definition of who qualifies as a “direct care professional”.
The legislation would also create a centralized coordinating body run out of the Administration for Community Living (ACL), tasked with providing technical assistance and guidance to the grant recipients and other relevant stakeholders. This entity would help establish career development and advancement strategies for direct care workers, lead analysis to identify national data gaps, workforce shortage areas, and data collection strategies for direct care professionals, develop recommendations for training and education curricula for direct care professionals and family caregivers, and disseminate information and best practices from lessons learned through the grant projects.
The National Association for Home Care & Hospice said in a press release that it is encouraged by introduction of the legislation. The association is working with champions in Congress to advance more sustainable policy solutions, including increased Medicaid and Medicare payment rates, that are needed to fully address the systemic workforce challenges facing home care providers and professionals.